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20 Must-Read Science Fiction Books

It's time to suit up for your next adventure! Here are 20 must-read sci-fi novels.
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Are you looking to dive into your next adventure?

If you’re hoping for imaginative tales and futuristic concepts, maybe with some aliens thrown in, I’ve got you! Today, we are going to look at some of the best science fiction books that the genre has to offer.

Sci-fi covers such a wide range. From science and technology to extraterrestrial life, parallel universes to time travel, there seems to be a little something for everyone in this “literature of ideas.” Even people who claim they don’t like or understand science can usually find themselves immersed in science fiction.

What’s your flavor? Are you into distant dystopian futures that warn what could happen in the face of tyrannical governments or nuclear disaster? Perhaps you prefer stories about space travel, and humans living among extraterrestrials across the galaxy? Do you find technology, like bioengineering or teleportation, more interesting?

If you are looking for inspiration for the next sci-fi novel to pick up, we have compiled a list of some of the best books from the genre. Some are wild trips of the imagination, while others are unnervingly plausible. And while some books take place in the distant future on our own planet, many will take you beyond our atmosphere and into the stars. Really, anything is possible when you pick up a good sci-fi read.

So, suit up and get ready! These 20 best sci-fi books are ready to take you on thrilling, futuristic adventures.

The Foundation Trilogy – Isaac Asimov

The Foundation Trilogy - Isaac Asimov

Okay, this one is technically a series instead of a single novel, but we’re going to include them together as one entry on the list. Mathematician Hari Seldon predicts the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire and devises a plan to try and save the human race from the coming Dark Age. The original trilogy won the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series. Asimov later added new volumes to the series, so the adventure doesn’t end here.

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Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton

With the mega-franchise that Jurassic World has become, it’s easy to forget that it all began as a smart and gripping sci-fi novel written by Michael Crichton. You already know it’s about the collapse of an amusement park filled with genetically recreated dinosaurs. This cautionary tale about the dangers of genetic engineering explores chaos theory and real-world implications. Also, there are dinosaurs, so that’s always cool.

Ice – Anna Kavan

In Anna Kavan’s last work to be published before her death, an unstoppable monolithic ice shelf caused by nuclear war is slowly engulfing the earth and killing everything in the process. The nameless narrator is feverishly pursuing an elusive young woman, but his feelings become darker as the ice closes in. Ice is often described as unsettling, dreamlike, and even hallucinogenic.

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness mostly takes place on Winter, an Earth-like planet that is cold year-round. Here, everyone is androgynous and ambisexual, with no fixed gender. A human native from Earth struggles to understand. Published in 1969, this novel is groundbreaking for its thought-provoking look at issues of gender and feminism.

Solaris – Stanislaw Lem

Solaris - Stanislaw Lem

In this novel, a crew on a research station is attempting to understand a mysterious living ocean on an alien planet. They have little success, and Solaris exposes more about them than it does about itself. You may be familiar with the film adaptation from 2002, but author Stanislaw Lem has said that the movie wasn’t a proper reflection of the novel.

Consider Phlebas – Iain Banks

This space opera novel revolves around a galaxy-wide conflict involving the Idiran Empire and the Culture. One side is fighting for faith, and the other fighting for their moral right to exist. A powerful and intelligent Culture Mind has fled destruction but is being hunted by both sides.

Under the Skin – Michel Faber

An extraterrestrial manifests in human form and picks up hitchhikers to drug and deliver to her home planet. Why? On her home planet, human meat is an expensive delicacy, and the kidnapped hitchhikers are fattened up to be eaten. Dark!

Dune – Frank Herbert

Dune shows up on a lot of “Best Of” lists and has spawned a whole series of books, so it’s probably unsurprising to see it here. Set 20,000 years in the future, a feudal interstellar society sees noble houses controlling entire planets. Computers are banned for religious reasons, which sounds awful.

Paul Atredies and his family accept charge of the planet Arrakis, which is the only source of a coveted and very valuable material. Oh, and there are lots of sandworms.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Robert Heinlein

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Robert Heinlein

This novel gives us a picture of life on the moon–even though it came out just a few short years before man set foot on the moon for the first time. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress explores libertarian ideology as the moon colonies revolt against being ruled by Earth’s population.

Vurt – Jeff Noon

In an alternate version of Manchester, England, society has been shaped by a hallucinogen called Vurt. By putting color-coded feathers in their mouths, people can visit different dimensions and states of consciousness. Now Scribble is on a mission to find his sister Desdemona, whom he believes is trapped inside a rare Curious Yellow feather.

Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky

People are leaving a dying Earth, and the last survivors struggle to keep going as they drift in space. They find a new planet that could offer hope, but it is inhabited by evolved spiders that were genetically uplifted by a human scientist.

Neuromancer – William Gibson

Considered one of the first works in the cyberpunk genre, Neuromancer follows a washed-up hacker hired for one last job. He takes the dodgy job in exchange for reversing the damage that prevents him from accessing cyberspace. You’ll find artificial intelligence, cryonics, the “matrix,” and more in this dystopian Japanese underworld.

Metro 2033 – Dmitry Glukhovsky

Metro 2033 - Dmitry Glukhovsky

A global nuclear holocaust has driven survivors to hide underground in the Moscow Metro. People have developed tribes that trade and fight, but there are also flesh-eating mutants and a voice driving people mad. Artyom must travel to the center of the Metro through danger to save what remains of humankind.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

This dystopian novel was written in 1953, but it has managed to remain relevant even today. Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns, in a future where the printed book is illegal. Guy Montag is a fireman whose job is to destroy books and the homes in which they are hidden, but he begins to question everything he has ever known after he meets an eccentric young neighbor.

The Power – Naomi Alderman

Forget the notion that women are somehow naturally more kind and caring. In this book by Naomi Alderman, power is power – and women have developed the ability to release electrical jolts from their hands. They can inflict devastating pain, and sometimes even death. This book is soon to be adapted into a TV series, which has been in production for a while with Amazon Studios.

Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

Main character Hiro is an elite hacker, and he’s trying to stop the spread of a dangerous virus being spread by a religious cult. The book weaves together ancient mythology, computer science, linguistics, and more. And although Snow Crash was published in the early ‘90s, it impressively manages to predict things like social networks, cryptocurrency, and other facts of modern life.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

Although intended to be a children’s book, A Wrinkle in Time is still an engaging tale that is just as enjoyable to read as an adult. The main characters embark on a journey through time and space as they try to save their father and the rest of the world. The novel wrestles with spirituality and purpose, and the fight between light and darkness.

The Martian – Andy Weir

The protagonist is stranded on Mars, and he must rely on his own resourcefulness to survive. It’s definitely a story focused on the triumph of the human spirit, but it’s also loaded with immense scientific detail. Author Andy Weir researched related material so that it would be as realistic as possible and based on actual technology.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

George Orwell’s ninth and final book was first published back in 1949. Still, it remains as relevant as ever, covering the role of truth and facts within politics–and the ways in which they are manipulated. In this dystopian future, government lies and propaganda rules. The world has fallen victim to government surveillance, totalitarian rule, and perpetual war.

Hyperion – Dan Simmons

Hyperion - Dan Simmons

Humanity has spread to thousands of other worlds, but none are as dangerous as Hyperion. This planet is home to the Time Tombs, which are actually traveling backward through time and are guarded by a creature known as the Shrike. A fanatical religious group organizes a final pilgrimage to the tombs on the eve of an invasion, and this novel tells the stories of those chosen.

Couldn’t put these down? Looks like we may have some new contenders to add to our list for 2022. Here’s what’s coming to the genre in 2022.